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Thomas Banks ( 1735 - 1805 )  Category ( Sculptors ) [suggest a correction]

Thomas BanksThomas Banks was an eighteenth-century English sculptor, best known for his treatment of classical subjects or the portrayal of modern subjects in Classical settings. He was born in London, the son of a surveyor to a nobleman. His father was his first instructor in art, teaching the boy the basics of drawing. In 1750, he began an apprenticeship with a woodcarver, which offered him an introduction to his future profession. Further encouragement came in the form of evening tutorials under the Flemish émigré sculptor, Peter Scheemakers. He began to exhibit to favorable reviews, and became greatly encouraged in his work.

Banks' training culminated in being accepted to the Royal Academy, where he was awarded the important Rome travel studentship. He remained abroad for six years, soaking up the atmosphere and taking inspiration from the great Italian master sculptors. When he returned to England in 1779, he was disheartened to discover that classical poetry and art was no longer favored in his homeland. He then accepted a position at the court of Russian Tsaritsa Catherine II (the Great), who greatly encouraged neo-classical ideas in art and literature. He remained in St. Petersburg for two years, creating such works as Cupid tormenting a Butterfly. While he took inspiration from Catherine and her court, Banks found the Russian winter too harsh for his liking. He returned to England invigorated and inspired by classical ideals, determined to popularize his favored style. His efforts were not entirely in vain, but he did come to realize that he would have to adapt his tastes to suit a paying public. His greatest achievement during this period was a colossal work entitled Achilles mourning the loss of Briseis.

Within a few years Banks also was welcomed into the Royal Academy as an associate member, then as a full member. At this point major commissions began to arrive, including memorial works at Westminster Abbey. One work, considered among his greatest, is a colossal group entitled Shakespeare attended by Painting and Poetry. Banks received five hundred guineas for this work, which features William Shakespeare surrounded by allegorical figures from teh classical period. Prominent English painter Sir Joshua Reynolds considered Banks to be “the first British sculptor who had produced works of classic grace.”  In the early years of the new century, Banks health began to fail, and he died in London on February 2, 1805.

Image: Engraving of Banks' sculpture, 'Shakespeare attended by Painting and Poetry' at the entrance to the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery. The sculpture in now in the former garden of Shakepeare's home New Place in Stratford.

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Title :Biography
Description : Biography of BANKS, Thomas (b. 1735, London, d. 1805, London) in the Web Gallery of Art, a searchable image collection and database of European painting and sculpture (1100-1850)
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